William (“Billy”) Lee

Portrait of Washington and Billy Lee by John Trumbull, 1780

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QUICK FACTS
BORN:
c. 1750
  DIED:
1828 at Mount Vernon, Virginia
Buried in the slave burial ground at Mount Vernon.

  • During the summer of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, with Washington presiding, Billy Lee stood behind his master’s chair and tended to his personal needs.
Portrait to come. See entry in Wikipedia. George Washington's long-time valet, William Lee, suffered two serious accidents in the 1780s which dislocated the knee caps of both legs, resulting in permanent disability. Because he could no longer perform his regular duties, Lee became the plantation's shoemaker instead.

 

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For all their artistic and philosophical brilliance, the Greeks were failures at politics; Hamilton, in the Federalist, expressed horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were agitated. The Romans captured the American imagination because they had done what the Americans themselves hoped to do — sustain an extensive republic over a course of centuries. So the society of Revolutionary War officers called themselves Cincinnati; president, congress, and senate were all Roman terms. But the Roman example was also cautionary, for when they lost their virture, they slid into empire. When Franklin said, in response to a question from Eliza Powel, that the constitutional convention had produced a republic, if you can keep it, he and she would have remembered that the Romans had failed to keep theirs.

Richard Brookhiser
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (1996)